Wednesday, 2 October 2013
County Enterprise Boards (Dissolution) Bill 2013: Second Stage
We will see. A public debate and discussion is required about the amount of volunteering time that Irish people do for organisations nationwide. Moreover, such people never get recognition from the Government. It is never put on the radar that so many people give so much of their time free to help their local communities. The Fine Gael-Labour Party Government set itself the task of abolishing quangos. That agenda was expedient in opposition but it undermines excellent work being done by the enterprise boards. Moreover, it will not achieve any savings for the taxpayer but will make it more difficult to create and sustain jobs. There have been outrageous attacks on the competence and professionalism of county and city enterprise boards staff across the country and this has been unfairly used as a basis for this decision. I reiterate that I lay the blame for this on the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. That Department lacked a strategic plan, did not have a timeline for each enterprise board for the delivery of jobs and so on. They were neglected, including financially, by the Government. I believe the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has upstaged the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, at to where the LEOs would go. My instinct and suspicion is that the Minister, Deputy Bruton, wished to have them under the aegis of Enterprise Ireland but the Minister, Deputy Hogan, seems to want them to operate under the local authorities. I am greatly concerned by this development.
Councillor John Brassil of Kerry County Council has commented on the change and desires that the new local enterprise offices will operate consistently and effectively throughout the country. Moreover, key performance indicators and measurable outcomes must form part of the new structure, although this was not done by the Department. Councillor Brassil also underlines that from a local authority perspective, there must be greater flexibility regarding many areas, such as planning, rate charges and development levies. These details must be considered. Councillor Mattie Ryan of North Tipperary County Council has voiced concern that in counties in which the local authorities will be merged, such as Tipperary, there is a risk that services to new and existing businesses will be diminished rather than enhanced unless the correct supports are put in place and made accessible to entrepreneurs. The chairperson of the Cavan Enterprise Board, Mr. Jack Keyes, has called for the local dimension to be paramount in any future arrangement. Mr. Keyes also highlights that boards are well served by the voluntary effort of the board and evaluation committee members. I myself was honoured to be asked to serve in that capacity by the former city manager, Mr. Frank Feely, and was appointed in 1993 to the evaluation committee of the first Dublin City Enterprise Board. As a new and embryonic entrepreneur at that stage, I still was able to make my contribution to the aforementioned committee. Interestingly, the chief executive officer of the Donegal County Enterprise Board, Mr Michael Tunney, poses the question as to whether there are sectors of the economy that currently are excluded from accessing supports that should be included. For example, service and retail businesses in the main are not eligible for grant aid and this should not continue. Having tried to help and support a hairdressing salon in north Dublin recently, I acknowledge there are enterprises that are not eligible for a financial grant when they are not exporting but serious mentoring and guidance should be made available to those companies.
I accept this measure is on a roll, is coming through and that Members cannot do anything about it. While Enterprise Ireland will have a role as a centre of excellence, this move is crazy. Why were the new bodies not brought fully under the aegis of Enterprise Ireland? They still could have been locally-based. The Enterprise Ireland people are missionaries in the development of entrepreneurial culture in Ireland but one cannot say the same about the local authorities. It is not their remit and I acknowledge they do a good job in what they are doing.